Saint Louis University

The Saint Louis University Museum of Art will present Roads to Freedom - To Europe Through Solidarity in the Judith and Adam Aronson Gallery of the Saint Louis University Museum of Art. The exhibition opens Friday, Jan. 26 and continues until Feb. 18, 2007.

Roads to Freedom - To Europe Through Solidarity commemorates the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Solidarity movement by the workers of the Lenin Shipyard complex in Gdansk, Poland, in 1980. Presenting the historical context and personalities that made Solidarnosc possible, if not inevitable, Roads to Freedom illustrates Polish life under Soviet-style communism as a microcosm reflecting the experience of life behind the Iron Curtain.

The rejection of the Polish People's Republic by the very workers that the state insisted it represented was not the only rejection of a Warsaw Pact regime in the years after the Second World War. The ruthless suppression of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and the 1968 Prague Spring presented intimidating precedents to the workers of the Lenin Shipyard, Gdansk, Poland. Dissatisfaction and economic distress proved more compelling, however, and Lenin Shipyard workers went on strike in August 1980. Posting demands for change on the shipyard gates, the 1980 August Accords called for the government's acceptance of independent trade unions, the right to strike, the negotiation of worker grievances and an insistence that the Polish government support a free press. Lech Walesa became the face of Solidarnosc, and his astute leadership was recognized by the international community when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.

Martial law was the eventual response of the Polish government, and its imposition in 1981 marked the first time within the Soviet sphere of influence that a communist party ceded governance to the military. Solidarity's leadership was imprisoned and the trade union outlawed. Military rule staved off invasion but General Jaruzelski's government proved unable to address the continued deterioration of the Polish economy. In 1989, Solidarity was granted legal status and Poland held its first free elections. Lech Walesa was elected president and Poland's experience proved a catalyst for change throughout Eastern Europe. The movement was assisted immeasurably by the support of Pope John Paul II. 

Roads to Freedom - To Europe Through Solidarity is sponsored by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has been organized by the Foundation for Solidarity Center of Gdansk, Poland. It has been exhibited throughout Europe under the auspices of the European Union as well as in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago.

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